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Debt-for-equity swap as losses are trimmed.

Byline: TONY McDONOUGH

CABLE TV operator Telewest said yesterday it was on course to complete a debt-for-equity swap this summer after reporting a significant reduction in its losses.

The debt laden firm, which employs around 1,500 in Merseyside, said it hoped to come to an agreement with creditors over its pounds 3.5bn financial restructuring in the second quarter.

Net losses for 2003 were pounds 272m against pounds 2.23bnin 2002 --a comparison distorted by pounds 1.48bnof one- off accounting charges.

Telewest added it had been encouraged by a ``solid'' trading performance during 2003 as operating losses before exceptional items narrowed topounds 62mfrom pounds 241ma year earlier. Telewest provides multi-channel television, telephone and Internet services to around 1.7mUK households,as well as voice and data telecommunications services to 70,000 business customers.

It has around 100,000 subscribers in Merseyside with the exception of Wirral which is covered by rival operator NTL.

Yesterday's figures show turnover increased by pounds 30m to pounds 1.33bnas strong broad band subscriber growth helped Internet-based revenues almost double to pounds 120m.

Telewest said the average amount of money spent by customers had risen to a record level of pounds 44.42 a month by the end of the year.

The firm announced details of its financial overhaul in September as it looked to reduce its pounds 5.37bn debt mountain.

Under the debt-for-equity agreement,bondholders agreed in principle to swap around pounds 3.5bn in debt for a 98.5% holding in the group. Existing shareholders will have the remaining 1.5%.

During the fourth quarter, Telewest said the number of household customers grew by 9,000 -the second successive quarter of customer growth.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Mar 13, 2004
Words:283
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